Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with images of television. From commercials, to sit coms to movies to documentaries and the news, society is confronted everyday with the choice to watch a variety of programs for a variety of reasons on a familiar rectangular box. Television has evolved over the years to encompass much more than mere entertainment. It now proves itself as a means of education as well. However, as with all good things, society tends to overindulge, and overindulgence in watching television is no exception. Watching television has benefits as well as detriments in its usage.
There are many documented reasons for television being detrimental to one’s health. In fact, “The perils of too many hours spent in front of the boob tube are well known: obesity, poor grades, and overexposure to sex and violence” (TV). Watching television is not problematic, but when a person acknowledges that he watches too much television and is still unable to limit his viewing time, then he may have a problem. This is loosely termed as having a television addiction. People in industrialized nations spend, on average, three hours per day watching television (Kubey 49). “Someone who lives to 75 would spend nine years in front of the tube” (Kubey 49). Scientists have hypothesized on the ramifications of watching too much television.
At Yale University, researchers Jerome and Dorothy Singer “have suggested that more viewing may contribute to a shorter attention span, diminished self-restraint and less patience with the normal delays of daily life” (Kubey 51). For example, twenty five years ago Tannis M. MacBeth Williams, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, travelled to a remote mountain community and studied a group of people who did not have access to any television. In time, cable finally arrived and adults and children began watching more and more television. As they began watching more television, they became less creative with problem solving, less able to continue with difficult tasks, and less tolerant of unstructured time (Kubey 52). Watching too much television may be detrimental to young children also and increase their chances of being afflicted with ADHD (Carsten). Young children must be closely monitored on their television viewing habits.
Each year, children in the age range 2-11 watch an average of 22,000 food and toy commercials targeted toward their age group (Bernard-Bonnin). “More than two thirds of food commercials advertise high-sugar foods” (Bernard-Bonnin). Thus, a connection may be made between excessive television viewing and childhood obesity. Naturally, people of all ages who are spending too much time in front of the television are lacking in physical activity which is thusly linked to obesity and the host of health problems that accompany it. Another drawback to watching too much television is the impact it has on social interaction. It seems to serve as a deterrent for intrafamilial conversation as well as interaction with peers. Watching too much television has a plethora of problems and drawbacks that may only be viewed as detrimental to the health and well being of humans.
Television is not without its merits as it does provide some benefits to the overall well being of mankind. According to recent reports, it may be beneficial in the liberation of women (TV). Satellite television is making a difference in the lives of women in India. In villages that have received and started using television,the enrollment of girls in local schools has increased while the incidence of pregnancy has decreased (TV). Emily Oster, an economist at the University of Chicago, says, “People are getting exposed to a set of attitudes that are more liberal-that are more favorable toward woman- and…they are changing their minds in response to that” (TV). Another group that television affects in a positive manner is young children. In a recent study of 3-5 year olds, those who watch educational shows such as Blues Clues or Sesame Street perform better on pre-reading tests and develop better short term memory than their counterparts who do not watch educational television (McCarthy). Furthermore, cowatching these shows with their children may give the parents the opportunity to play games that reinforces the educational nature of the educational programming (McCarthy). “TV can never take the place of quality interactions with your child, but it can be a tool,” says Dimitri Christakis, M.D., the lead author of the study (McCarthy).
Television has demonstrated that it has positive as well as negative effects. The negative effects include increased obesity and lowered creativity, but the positive benefits of liberation and education cannot be ignored. As with anything else in life, one must exercise moderation in the use of television because too much can have a negative effect. Television is an integral part of our culture and we have to learn how to use it to our advantage without being pulled in to its negative aspect.
- Bernard-Bonnin, Anne-Claude, Sophie Gilbert, and Elizabeth Rousseau. “Television and the 3-10 Year Old Child.” Pediatrics 88.1 (1991): 48-55. Ebscohost. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
- Carsten, Obel. “Does Children’s Watching of Television Cause Attention Problems? Retesting the Hypothesis in a Danish Cohort.” Pediatrics Nov. 2004: 3. Ebscohost. Web. Dec. 8.
- Kubey, Robert, and Csikszentmihalyi Mihaly. “Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor.”Scientific American Special Edition 14.1 (2004): 48-55. Ebscohost, Jan. 2004. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
- McCarthy, Laura Flynn. “When TV Is Good for Kids.” Parenting 19.11 (2006): 42. Ebscohost. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
- “TV Privileges.” Foreign Policy 162 (2007): 22. Abstracts in Social Gerontology. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.